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Winter's Dramatic Changes on Oregon Coast Can Include Shipwrecks, Caves, Whole Beaches

Published 11/30/23 a 7:15 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Winter's Dramatic Changes on Oregon Coast Can Include Shipwrecks, Caves, Whole Beaches

(Oregon Coast) – There is more to winter than storms on this shoreline. Raging waves and ferocious tides change the beaches, sometimes drastically. Maybe your favorite Oregon coast spot is already different: maybe starkly so. (Above: wreck of the Sujameco in later years, courtesy Coos History Museum)

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Caves, shipwrecks, and even the configuration of a beach can shift with the winter sand movements. Tidepools can move as well.

Some curiosities to look for:

South of Yachats: At Neptune State Scenic Viewpoint, summer sand levels are often so high here they cover up the small cave across the creek. At Ocean Beach Picnic Area, most tidepools are covered up at the small headland to its south. But others often have grown up above the sand line. There was also sizable space to get around that point earier.

Look for that to be gone, but more tidepools will likely be available and the cave a little more accessible. Hotels in Yachats - Where to eat - Upper Lane County

Manzanita's Tideline. At this tiny, forested and beloved north Oregon coast town, there's always a huge distance between the tideline and the sandy embankments. Look for Manzanita Beach to shrink in winter, maybe by a couple hundred feet. During summer, all that sand builds and creates big structures that end up keeping the tide at bay. It looks like an extreme low tide event, but it's just sand stretching the whole beach out by a long ways. Even in winter, Manzanita is a larger-than-usual beach, but there's maybe half of it there was in summer.

Courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast

Coos Bay's Wreck of the Sujameco. This last spring, the 1929 wreck was still visible after winter storms carved out the usual high tufts of Horsfall Beach sands. It stuck around longer than usual, staying in “full bloom” - as some locals call it – into May at least.

Now, you'll want to get to the Wreck of the Sujameco to see what king tides and other storms have done.

Depoe Bay's Remarkable Access and Sights. At Boiler Bay, summer often keeps the tide further out, and thus there are some low tide events where you can actually get closer to the old shipwreck boiler the place was named for.

In winter, don't even think about going down there, no matter the conditions. Waves and unruly tides are closer now. Two teens died there in the early 2000s thinking they could make it.

Inside the Devil's Punchbowl in summer: you can't even get near it most of the year

At Devil's Punchbowl, it may actually live up to its name, though that happens less than people think. It takes a pretty good storm to cause the whole thing to take on that “boiling” look. But if it's going to happen, winter is the time. Hotels in Depoe Bay - Where to eat - Depoe Bay Maps and Virtual Tours

Uncovering Wreck of the Peter Iredale. Every year, it seems, there's less and less of this gloried ol' wreck, located in Fort Stevens State Park near Warrenton. People lament this all the time. However, winter's lower sand levels will get you a bigger peek.

Indeed, already in November of 2023 there have been a couple of social media posts pointing out more of it is visible than usual. It's good reason to head down there soon. Hotels in Astoria - Where to eat - Astoria Maps and Virtual Tours

Cannon Beach's Summer Rivulets. These unique shapes in the sand are usually only possible during calmer conditions, like summer or early fall. If ocean water or the creek water is too forceful, these won't form. Hotels in Cannon Beach - Where to eat - Cannon Beach Maps and Virtual Tours

Bandon's Caves Get Bigger. Those intriguing sets of caves on Bandon's beachfront – including the Cave of the Winds – manage to get taller in winter. What's happening is sand levels thin with every major storm, and all of a sudden the entrance that you had to crouch to get inside lets you in at full height. (Photo courtesy Jim Proehl, Bandon Historical Museum)

These southern Oregon coast attractions make the beach that much more tempting, but watch those winter storm conditions and don't touch those caves if there's much wet sand there. If the breakers have just recently been there, they could well come again. Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - South Coast Hotels - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours


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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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